My daughter is an awesome person. She is one of those wonderful and rare people. She thinks about everything she says and I have never heard her say anything that might offend anyone or be deemed unkind. I would love to say that is because she has an amazing mother who taught her how to communicate in that manner, but that is just not true. My son, an equally awesome person, tends to speak before he thinks and although he is very kind and would help anyone, we have had to have discussions about what he says and how he says it. More than once I have had to say “Honey, I understand what you are trying to say, however, the way you said it could be thought of as insensitive even though it was not meant that way. Let’s talk about ways you might be able to rephrase that.”
We have discussed topics like this in the blog before. Recently Chris wrote about a reporter saying a “Special needs bus was in an accident” and we wondered what made that buses needs more special than any other bus. I have written about people first language and discussed terms people like used versus labels. All of this is just dialogue about communication. We all want different things and we prefer things about us being said in a certain way.
I recently had a discussion with someone I know who prefers to be called an “Autistic Person”. She doesn’t want to be known as a “Person with Autism”. We discussed at great length people first language versus how she wants to be known. To her Autism is who she is, not what she has and she feels like it diminishes her Autism and who she is to say “Person with Autism.” Although I may have a different view point, I respect what she wants to be called. It’s her life and her choice. It would completely go against what I believe to make that decision for her because it makes me uncomfortable. Although I may never call her an “Autistic person” I will also never call her a “person with Autism” because I know it offends her.
How did I learn this? She communicated with me her preferences. We had an open and honest discussion in which she conveyed her feelings. The conversation was not 100% easy. Parts of it made both of us uncomfortable and we discussed that as well. The point is we were talking. Many problems in this world could be solved with a simple conversation. If you want to know why someone wants something or why they prefer to be called by something specific, ask them. It really is that easy. Also, think before you speak. It does take extra time but is very much worth it.
Johnathan Bergman said “To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times what people need is not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens.”